A Very Black Friday

I’m just horrified.

A Wal-Mart worker was killed Friday when “out-of-control” shoppers desperate for bargains broke down the doors at a 5 a.m. sale. Other workers were trampled as they tried to rescue the man, and customers shouted angrily and kept shopping when store officials said they were closing because of the death, police and witnesses said.

At least four other people, including a woman who was eight months pregnant, were taken to hospitals for observation or minor injuries, and the store in Valley Stream on Long Island closed for several hours before reopening.

Shoppers stepped over the man on the ground and streamed into the store. When told to leave, they complained that they had been in line since Thursday morning.

Nassau police said about 2,000 people were gathered outside the store doors at the mall about 20 miles east of Manhattan. The impatient crowd knocked the man, identified by police as Jdimytai Damour of Queens, to the ground as he opened the doors, leaving a metal portion of the frame crumpled like an accordion.

“This crowd was out of control,” said Nassau police spokesman Lt. Michael Fleming. He described the scene as “utter chaos.”

Dozens of store employees trying to fight their way out to help Damour were also getting trampled by the crowd, Fleming said.

Items on sale at the store included a Samsung 50-inch Plasma HDTV for $798, a Bissel Compact Upright Vacuum for $28, a Samsung 10.2 megapixel digital camera for $69 and DVDs such as “The Incredible Hulk” for $9.

I note that the store was only closed for “several hours.”

You know what one fact makes me even more disgusted, horrified, and sickened? All the interviews I’ve heard today from shoppers indicate that they are all out there buying things for themselves. The consumerism of Christmas has finally reached its absurd nadir with people killing other people in order to buy a plasma television for themselves instead of for someone else as a gift. Which is all to the good, because who would want such a gift tainted with the blood of another?

A bigot by any other name

Here’s a letter to the editor in today’s Mercury News:

Gay marriage still an oxymoron
California voters have spoken again. They will not be stampeded by the petulant children of the gay community, regardless of their tantrums. Gay marriage is an oxymoron. There is no right of the gay community to define the word “marriage” in any way they wish. It is time that those in the gay community stop their silly protesting and select a term for their type of union that will not be confused with that we all know to have in its traditional meaning.
William H. Kremer
San Jose

Okay. So, as I understand it, Mr. Kremer thinks that an entire class of people should be discriminated against, that a right should be denied to them because of what it is called? Now who is being petulant, Mr. Kremer? And confused? What, are you worried that someone might go into a wedding and come out with someone other than they expected to marry?
If straight people call it marriage, and gay people call it larriage — but otherwise it is exactly the same thing and is recognized by the government as exactly the same thing — are you seriously telling me that you’d accept it wholeheartedly?
I thought not. So stop making yourself out to be something other than a bigot.

Mixed feelings (as usual) about Hillary

So, the word on the street is that Hillary is Barack’s choice for Secretary of State, and the rumors are that she’s accepting it. Here’s my take.

Hillary’s presidential ambitions
Is it too late? Hillary Clinton is now 61. If Barack Obama is a successful president, I don’t get the feeling that Hillary will challenge him 4 years from now. That leaves 2016, when she’ll be 69 years old. Here’s the thing: with the election of Obama, we’ve effectively closed the door on the baby boomers, on the oldsters. It could be that this election was a big turning point and the baton has been passed to a new generation — one that Hillary Clinton doesn’t belong to. Maybe Hillary understands that this election was her one and only shot at the White House?

Hillary’s senate ambitions
I have thought, ever since her campaign began to falter, that Clinton should stay in the senate. There have been a lot of changes there recently, and old faces are fading away. Right now, the dean of the senate is either Byrd or Kennedy; neither of them is likely to be office much longer and that leaves a vacancy for a new “lion” — that could be Clinton. She could conceivably carve out a decades-long career and create a role for herself as the most distinguished member of the senate well into the future.

Hillary on the world stage
There is an opportunity as Secretary of State, but it is a one-shot deal. The next Secretary will be positioned to bring America’s standing in the world back from the brink after 8 years of Bush policies and wars. Hillary Clinton could be the envoy to the rest of the world who actually gets them to like us again. Is this the kind of role that she might look for to cement her name in the history books? A consolation for not being the first female president? There aren’t many Secretaries of State who have become household names, but Hillary Clinton may just be able to pull it off.

The senate could be a distinguished career. The presidency could be a long shot. Secretary of State? That could be a new challenge. It’ll be interesting to see which direction she heads.

Bemoaning the rerun

So, now the latest Bryan Fuller gem has been axed— Pushing Daisies — and we’re seeing here the results of the new way television works.

Bush Continues Unabated

While we’re all justly excited about the coming of change, the current occupant continues to chip away:

EPA Proposal Would Loosen Rules for Air in National Parks
By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 19, 2008; Page A01
The Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing new air-quality rules that would make it easier to build coal-fired power plants, oil refineries and other major polluters near national parks and wilderness areas, even though half of the EPA’s 10 regional administrators formally dissented from the decision and four others criticized the move in writing.

Administration Moves to Protect Key Appointees
Political Positions Shifted To Career Civil Service Jobs
By Juliet Eilperin and Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, November 18, 2008; Page A01
Just weeks before leaving office, the Interior Department’s top lawyer has shifted half a dozen key deputies — including two former political appointees who have been involved in controversial environmental decisions — into senior civil service posts.

The transfer of political appointees into permanent federal positions, called “burrowing” by career officials, creates security for those employees, and at least initially will deprive the incoming Obama administration of the chance to install its preferred appointees in some key jobs.

Similar efforts are taking place at other agencies. Two political hires at the Labor Department have already secured career posts there, and one at the Department of Housing and Urban Development is trying to make the switch.

Between March 1 and Nov. 3, according to the federal Office of Personnel Management, the Bush administration allowed 20 political appointees to become career civil servants. Six political appointees to the Senior Executive Service, the government’s most prestigious and highly paid employees, have received approval to take career jobs at the same level. Fourteen other political, or “Schedule C,” appointees have also been approved to take career jobs. One candidate was turned down by OPM and two were withdrawn by the submitting agency.

The personnel moves come as Bush administration officials are scrambling to cement in place policy and regulatory initiatives that touch on issues such as federal drinking-water standards, air quality at national parks, mountaintop mining and fisheries limits.

Give a man 700 billion fish

I just shake my head when it comes to government. It always seems that the people in charge don’t seem to have the least bit of common sense — or, maybe it’s me that doesn’t understand economics.

First off, the bail outs. I just don’t understand how giving billions of dollars to banks helps anyone but the bankers. They’re not passing that money on to people who need it. Like all these proposals to bail out car manufacturers — how does giving money outright to GM help anyone? If no one is buying the cars, what will they use the money for?

I think what the government should be doing is buying things. Go to GM with a few billion dollars and buy cars. Tell them the government will buy 20,000 Volt plug-ins, and here’s the money up front. Finish designing them then build them, and deliver them to the government no later than September 2009. So GM will need to keep people on the job, and they’ll also be tooled up to compete in the post-oil economy. And the rest of us will win because after building 20,000 cars, GM will be able to sell them at a lower price to the general public, making greener technology affordable to Joe Schmo, hopefully reaching a critical mass where our oil consumption plummets.

I don’t know what to about the banks; but it seems to me that the easiest, most direct thing is to use that money to pay off bad mortgages once and for all. I know $700 billion won’t cover them all, but if people like me — who diligently pay their mortgage every month but find themselves squeezed and under water — got a small windfall to cover the portion of their mortgage that’s under water, well… it would probably be enough save our home by lowering our payments just a bit.

And government? We need to change the way government budgets. Every year, if departments don’t spend all the money they’ve been alloted, they won’t be allowed to ask for more the next year. This means that in years that the economy is booming, government spends everything it gets. But in poor years, government has to cut services just when they’re needed the most. Like the rest of us, government lives paycheck-to-paycheck, not saving for a rainy day. It seems to me that government should spend less during the good times while still collecting the tax revenues when people can afford it; then use those savings to step up safety net programs and cut taxes when people are worse off.

Logic, of course, has no place in politics.

Harry Weese, ahead of his time

Is it just me, or does this corridor from the new Star Trek movie Enterprise look like a shiny new Metro station?

What Would Gene Drive?


I just got it into my head to make a list of all the cars I’ve owned, sort of an exercise to see a) how much of a consumer I am, and b) what my car choices say about me.

Wahh! They’re being mean to me!

I was just watching the news and getting really pissed off: Prop 8 supporters are now crying discrimination and harassment because people are boycotting their businesses. A woman interviewed just now whose business is being boycotted whined that her support for Prop 8 “doesn’t have any bearing on my ability to groom dogs.”

Guess what? My being gay doesn’t have any bearing on my ability to do a job, and yet gay people are discriminated against in the workplace every day. It is laughable how hypocritical these people are. You don’t see them complaining when fundamentalist groups boycott businesses that treat gay and lesbians as human beings; in fact, the Prop 8 groups went so far as to blackmail businesses that donated to defeat the bigoted initiative. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, they’re crying foul.

Tell me, how does it feel to be targeted for discrimination, boycotts, and threats? We live with it every day thanks to people like you.

As built by Sirius Cybernetics

So, the J.J. Abrams vision of the USS Enterprise has finally been revealed… and I’m not too excited about it.

All I keep thinking when I look at this is Douglas Adams’ description of The Heart of Gold — swooping curves, ultra-modern and bulbous… like a running shoe. It’s self-consciously futuristic. Eh.

HWJV?

It occurs to me that pretty much everyone who voted for the noxious Proposition 8 did so because of religious beliefs. Was there ever a more clear-cut example of religion treading in the public arena, imposing its values on the populous at large? Of course, the religious used the same argument when voting Yes, saying that the homosexuals were imposing their special agenda on the rest of the state. But of course, the marriage of a couple doesn’t have any impact on their neighbors (except when they fight and the police visit the neighborhood, something that tends to happen in the best heterosexual trailer parks out there).
Every single interview with a Yes on 8 voter I’ve heard indicates that this was a religious referendum, and that’s blatantly wrong.
First things first: because churches have decided to push into the political arena with such force in the last decade, I think it’s time to revoke their tax exemption. And of course, this is one of the things they were saying in their ads, that they’d lose their tax exemption if they refused to perform same-sex marriages (what a crock) — so you see, the churches are all about money.
I’m not talking about the churches that actually do the charitable work that Jesus would approve of. You know, the ones who take care of the less fortunate? I mean, as much as I hate Catholic dogma inserting itself into politics, I have to admit that Catholics still include charitable work in their teachings. I’m not talking about the Quaker meeting house down the street or the regular churches who recognize that Jesus himself would have voted NO on this odious discrimination.
No, I’m talking about the Mormons, who, from Utah, have poured tens of millions of dollars into California to impose their hypocritical thoughts on marriage on California. I’m talking about the mega-churches that raise millions of dollars from their members to pay for enormous buildings with state-of-the-art video and audio and Cadillacs for charismatic pastors.
These people are not real Christians. They know nothing of what Jesus tried to teach us and they don’t think of the rest of humanity as their brothers and sisters — only the people who agree with their tiny thoughts, only what they are told to think by power-hungry leaders. As I listened to a mega-church pastor this morning on the radio claim that the Holy Bible was the book of love, I had two thoughts: first, that the Bible does, ultimately, preach love and how could he deny it to anyone; and second, that the Bible is not the constitution of California.